Rights group calls on Egypt to drop charges against lawyer

AP News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2016 10:58 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Egypt to drop charges against a rights lawyer and halt the investigation of two senior judges who jointly drafted an anti-torture law.

Lawyer Negad Borai has been questioned several times by an investigating judge since he and the judges sent a copy of the draft law to the president's office in April 2015.

Borai faces charges that include the creation of an illegal organization, preventing state institutions from carrying out their duties and illegally receiving funds. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

"In today's Egypt, not even members of the judiciary are safe and independent from the security-minded arms of the state," Nadim Houry, HRW's regional deputy director, said in a statement. "The authorities should be investigating those who torture, not those who are trying to improve Egypt's laws and bring them in compliance with international norms."

The two judges, Hesham Raouf and Assem Abdel-Gabbar, were summoned for questioning earlier this month and are scheduled to return for more.

"Looks like they will jail me anyway," Borai told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I just hope they don't do it until after Ramadan," he said, referring to the Islamic holy month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, which began Monday.

Rights activists say that police under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi are acting with near total impunity, torturing suspects, abusing detainees and making random arrests. The Interior Ministry says any excesses are perpetrated by a small minority who are held accountable.

El-Sissi, who led the military overthrow of a divisive Islamist leader in 2013 and was elected the following year, says Egypt's rights record should not be judged by Western standards.